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Ushering in the new year at the California Bay

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt News
Full moon on the first night of the year.
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SAN FRANCISCO - It is just past seven in the morning and we are crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to watch the San Francisco sunrise from the Vista point lookout. Only the Twin Peaks and few skyscrapers are standing taller than the clouds. To add a touch of glamour, a ballerina, braving the cold morning, was having a photo shoot.

We still had to ride 25 minutes to arrive at the Muir Woods National Monument. Arriving before 9 a.m. offers three advantages; find a parking lot close to the entrance, get free entry to the park and enjoy to hike before the crowd arrives. To be noted that reservation to the park will be obligatory after Jan. 16.

Muir Woods National Monument doesn’t just provide a forest of giant trees, the coastal redwoods, but is the testimony of life on earth. Some of the Sequoia sempervirens trees present here are up to 1,200 years old, for a length of about 258 feet. Not too bad, even if the oldest tree of their species present in the northern part of the west coast can be over 2,200 years old for a length of 379 feet, older than the Christian religion and taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The Sequoia sempervirens present in Muir Woods National Monument shouldn’t be confused with another famous tree, the Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant redwood) present at the Sequoia National Park. The coastal redwood is taller than the giant redwood making it the tallest of all living things. But at the opposite, the giant redwood is up to two times larger than the coastal redwood.

Upon arrival in the park, we learned one thing for sure: it is very hard to get a photo of the whole tree!

Coastal redwoods at the Muir Woods National Monument. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

To enjoy a better view of the forest, we started at the canopy trail, a few minutes on the right after the entrance. Even if the coastal redwoods are the main attractions, it should be noted that life is abundant at the bottom of the trees. The protection provided by the trees help plants, like 13 species of ferns, redwood sorrels, and numerous mushrooms, to grow. Animals are also numerous including deer, squirrels and about a hundred species of birds. Even salmon are present in the river due to the good quality of the water.

Abundant vegetation at the bottom of the coastal redwoods. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

Unfortunately, while going back to the main trail the noise produced by the large crowd became more and more significant undermining the chance to observe wild animals.

After four hours of hiking, snapping dozens of pictures and a taking a short detour to the souvenir shop to buy a pair of redwood earrings made by a local artist, we continued on our journey, this time in the direction of the ocean.

After our initial plan to visit Muir Beach was thwarted by heavy traffic, we changed our route and decided to visit Sausalito, a coastal city along the Richardson Bay. Less crowded than neighboring cities, Sausalito is composed of colorful wooden homes that go up to the top of the hill creating a charming, relaxing atmosphere. From the bay, visitors can take in astonishing views of Alcatraz, San Francisco and numerous ferries and boats. 

View of Richardson Bay from Sausalito’s hill. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

To complete our day, we stopped at Hawk Hill to enjoy the sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge. However, due to the popularity of the site, traffic was very heavy and we finally managed to park the car and walked from Hawk Hill.

From Hawk Hill, we had a 360 ° view of the region and were able to see San Francisco and the Bay to the south and east, the ocean in the west and the mountains in the north.

By a stroke of luck, we were able to observe the sunset and a full moon (called also the Wolf moon) on the same night (like we did at White Sands National Monument). 

It was definitively the best way to kick-off the new year. 

To be continued...

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About the Author

Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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